Manhattan (song)

Manhattan (song)
Song from Garrick Gaieties
Published 1925
Writer Lorenz Hart
Composer Richard Rodgers

"Manhattan" is a popular song and part of the Great American Songbook. It has been performed by Lee Wiley, Oscar Peterson, Blossom Dearie, Tony Martin, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Torme, among many others.

The music was written by Richard Rodgers and the words by Lorenz Hart for the 1925 revue "Garrick Gaieties". It was introduced by Sterling Holloway (later the voice of the animated Winnie the Pooh) and June Cochran. The song describes, in several choruses, the simple delights of Manhattan for a young couple. But the simple delights are filled with delicious irony. Consider these lyrics:

"The subway charms us so

When balmy breezes blow

To and fro.

And tell me what street

Compares with Mott Street

In July?

Sweet pushcarts gently gliding by."

Only lovers could find the stifling hot wind in a New York subway in July as "balmy breezes" and only lovers disconnected from reality could find the stink of the pushcarts in 1920s Mott Street as "sweet" and their noisy jostling as "gently gliding."

And consider these inventive rhymes:

"I've a cozy little flat

In what is known as old Manhattan."

"We'll have Manhattan,

The Bronx and Staten

Island too."

"We'll go to Greenwich,

Where modern men itch

To be free;. . ."

One of Rodgers and Hart's earliest hits, Rodgers later maintained it was the song that "made" them as a songwriting team.

Since its debut, it has regularly appeared in popular culture. It was first heard on the silver screen in the 1929 short Makers Of Melody, a tribute to Rodgers and Hart sung by Ruth Tester and Allan Gould. Since then, it has been used in the Rodgers and Hart biopic Words And Music (1948), Two Tickets To Broadway (1951), Don't Bother To Knock (1952) (sung by Anne Bancroft), Beau James (1957), Silent Movie (1976), Mighty Aphrodite (1995), The English Patient (1996), Kissing Jessica Stein (2001) and many other movies and TV shows, most recently in the 2007 AMC production Mad Men episode "New Amsterdam". In the film All About Eve (1950), the song is played on the piano at the party when Margo and Max are in the kitchen.

In the early and mid-1950s, singer Julius La Rosa became a national celebrity for his exposure on several of the shows hosted by one of the most popular television stars of the era, Arthur Godfrey. On October 19, 1953, La Rosa sang "Manhattan" on one of Godfrey's radio shows. Immediately after he finished, Godfrey fired him on the air, saying, "that was Julie's swan song with us". So outraged was the public that La Rosa's career received an upsurge, while Godfrey's career and personality quickly declined, never to be regained.[citation needed]

Notable recordings

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